The Dallas Police Department (DPD) is training a new team of social service professionals to work alongside police officers.
The Crisis Intervention Team (CIT), a unit of unarmed, non-uniformed civilians, is being trained to de-escalate tense situations, attend to people’s mental health needs, and assess what other social services may be needed, depending on the circumstances.
The team members will have their own vehicles equipped with police radios and computers to communicate with the police officers.
DPD Public Information Officer Michael Dennis told The Dallas Express the CIT has been operating in a “follow-up capacity” since February and has “served more than 600 residents citywide.”
“The staff currently respond as a follow-up facilitator of social services based on referrals from DPD patrol, DFR community medics, and community partners,” said Dennis. “These responses commonly do not involve an offense and are able to be addressed outside of utilizing patrol elements.”
Now, the interventionists are being trained to respond directly to calls alongside police officers. The “co-response” model is expected to launch in mid-October at the Dallas Police North Central Division.
“The recent training is a component of continued preparation for utilizing the CIT to respond alongside DPD patrol on 9-1-1 calls for services that do not involve an offense and where a need for behavioral or mental health evaluation and social service connection is needed,” Officer Dennis told The Dallas Express.
“Our initial focus of the pilot will be on behavioral health calls for service, which are a Priority Two response,” Dennis said.
Priority Two calls include mental health crises and other social service problems, while violent crimes and life-threatening emergencies are designated as Priority One.
Officer Dennis told The Dallas Express that officers spend an average of 65 minutes on each Priority Two call.
With the Crisis Intervention Team managing more Priority Two situations, officers will be free to address more serious emergencies.
Dallas 911 Administrator Robert Uribe said, “We anticipate once it is fully effective, we’re going to be able to respond [more quickly] to all our Priority Ones – our violent type crimes – a lot faster than we are today.”
Dennis stressed to The Dallas Express they “are not launching this initiative to replace the response of DPD officers.”
Police expect many of these social service calls can be quickly secured by a DPD officer, after which CIT will “safely approach the scene and provide trauma-informed services while clearing extra officers from the scene to return to patrol function,” according to Dennis.
“We are launching this pilot with the expectation that at least one DPD patrol officer will remain with CIT while they work to maintain safety,” Dennis told The Dallas Express.
Social service calls have increased in recent years, according to Kevin Oden, interim director for the Office of Integrated Public Safety Solutions. “Every single day, the police department responds to dozens, if not hundreds, of [priority two] calls,” he said.
In 2019, the DPD responded to 13,000 social service calls; that number escalated to 18,000 in 2021. Police anticipate they will respond to 20,000 social service calls by the end of 2022.
If this pilot goes as planned, the Crisis Intervention Team can handle many of these calls, and if successful, the program may be expanded to other divisions.
“We will assess the outcomes of this pilot before making decisions on launching this model in other patrol divisions,” Dennis said.
He told The Dallas Express the CIT is currently allotted $1.7 million from the Office of Integrated Public Safety Solutions, adding, “There is an enhancement proposed in the FY23 budget that will add additional staff to the Crisis Intervention Team at a cost of $266,682.”
The Dallas CIT currently consists of 17 members, including a manager, two supervisors, and 14 crisis interventionists. Licensed social services professionals interested in joining the Crisis Intervention Team can search for career opportunities at DallasCityHall.com.